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Xylouris White, Esmerine to turn Black Sheep into a sonic canvas

When George Xylouris and Jim White have a conversation on stage, they’re speaking an entirely new language.

Xylouris White bring their unique art music to the Black Sheep Inn Nov. 24, 2016.

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Xylouris White bring their unique art music to the Black Sheep Inn Nov. 24, 2016.

When George Xylouris and Jim White have a conversation on stage, they’re speaking an entirely new language. 

They aren’t speaking in Xylouris’ native Cretan tongue, nor are they conversing through the Australian throat of White’s Ozzy background. The pair of sonic geniuses have a dialect onstage that is exclusively intricate and predictable, but inclusively understandable. It’s often said that music is a universal language, and while everyone can understand it, only few can speak it.

White and Xylouris are among those few.

“With Jim, playing together happens in a very natural way,” says Xylouris, who is considered musical royalty in his homeland of Crete in the Greek islands. The Cretan lute player says he loves the changing dynamic in real time at his live shows.

“We play off each other. The music is alive and is always different the next time we play it.”

The pair of sonic sultans truly see the stage like no one else. They don’t view it as just a platform to pass off their ideas, nor a performance space for audiences to get off on. For them, the stage is absolutely a canvas, and they come armed with every colour on the palette to splash around with. You may have seen Xylouris White play a week ago, but go to their next show and you’ll have a completely new experience – one that reflects the vibe, locale and audience they are playing to. Nothing set in stone when they get on stage, and the same will be the case when they take over the Black Sheep Inn Nov. 24 with Esmerine.

“As soon as we start playing, we can see all of the things that are possible,” adds White. “We just try to find our way forward. It’s really fun, it’s so natural and it’s fresh.”

Bringing music to life is what White was born to do. Ask fabled artists like Cat Power, Nick Cave or PJ Harvey why marching to the beat of White’s drum is always a different step. White has a way with the sticks that will make any music guru learn even more about the art of percussion. After forming Australian instrumental rock band Dirty Three in the 80s, White has gone on to be one of the most sought-after collaborators in the biz, not only for his apathy for direct structure, but also for his soft-but-pointed and precise touch on the skins – a balance often difficult to find for many drummers.

And although Xylouris White is just a lute player and a drummer, don’t be fooled. They make as much noise as any nine- or 10-piece band – and they do it perfectly while touching on sounds from India, Eastern Europe, Africa, Middle Eastern, Western, and the Mediterranean… you get the picture. You’ll hear punk, jazz, klezmer and stuff you never knew existed, all tightly wrapped in a seamless jam that’s impossible to unravel.

Just ask former Godspeed You! Black Emperor and current Esmerine percussionist Bruce Cawdron, who played one festival show with Xylouris White this summer and couldn’t let the band get away.

“It’s just the two of them, so, when they are playing, you really get to hear the quality of their musicianship, you will really get to hear the masters that they are,” says Cawdron, who will be headlining the Nov. 24 show with Esmerine.

“Anybody who comes to see them, it’s going to be like a privilege. It’s almost like a secret show.”

Not anymore.

Esmerine, Xylouris White, and Marisa Anderson are at the Sheep in Wakefield Nov. 24.

Come and see what all the noise is about.

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